Thursday, February 28, 2013

Distractions in the circus of life

Our family is one that struggles financially. My very brave and hard-working husband works as a law enforcement officer while I stay home with our three boys. Living on a very humble salary has been hard but it has genuinely changed us for the better. We are more cautious, mindful and purposeful than ever before, regarding money. We have come to recognize the value each dollar has and because of this, the pain of wasteful spending is like a punch in the gut for us. Thank God we have very supportive families and friends that live close by. We aren’t able to give extravagant gifts or go on vacation but my kids wouldn’t know the difference. They have plenty of people to spoil them!

My oldest boy’s fifth birthday was coming up and my mom told me of the surprise she had for Silas. She and my dad were giving the whole family tickets to the circus! I jumped with excitement just thinking of his reaction and the fun we all would have.

When the circus day finally arrived we picked up the tickets from grandma and grandpa and everyone was thrilled to go. The grandparents also gave the kids $20 each for souvenirs at the circus. I was thinking that was a lot of money for a souvenir until I actually got to the circus and saw the barrage and array of 'stuff' to buy. Clowns were going up and down the aisles selling elaborate spinners, popcorn in large Dr. Seuss type hats, ice cones in clown mugs, blinking light headpieces and a hundred other blinking ‘things’. I knew they each had $20, which to us was like $200. I could feel my stress levels skyrocket as I asked what each thing cost. The kids were only three and five years old and kept changing their mind of what they wanted. Of course they wanted the biggest spinning blinking light toy that cost more than what they had. In the hurry to get something before the show started, my husband flagged down a guy selling snow cones in a clown mug. I knew that probably wasn’t the best idea since they never had a snow cone before. I had a suspicion they wouldn’t like it. When they first got it they were delighted at the electric blue snow cones. About ten seconds later Silas threw up the spoonful he had in his mouth and Cannon (my three year old) didn’t want it either and kept saying he wanted a spinning toy. Realizing the boys didn’t like it, my husband took the mugs and threw out the snow cones in the bathroom. I was sick to my stomach that in ten seconds we just threw away almost all of the money they were given on something they didn’t even like! My eyes welled up with tears as I stuffed the empty clown mugs in my bag and just sat there thinking, “I’m at the happiest, most exciting place in the city, my kids are miserable and I feel sick about the wasted money...and the show hasn't even started yet!” As the circus finally began and the lights dimmed, the boys totally forgot about the souvenir escapade and had such a great time. Not once did they mention the stupid spinning toy. We all had a blast.

When we got home I took out the mugs to put their water in and their eyes lit up as they said, “Oh yeah, I LOVE these!!!!” I laughed to myself because they hated it not a few hours earlier with all the distractions around. As they were squirming in their chair thrilled to death that they got to have water in their souvenir clown mugs, I reflected back on the day and the whole souvenir debacle. I thought how when confronted with flashy silly toys their eyes grew wild with desire for everything and how dissatisfied they were with their decision. They were perfectly content before all the gimmicky clowns were parading around enticing their young innocent hearts. Those clowns were showing the kids what they didn’t have and how much fun they were missing out on as they spun their spinners and threw their ‘boomerings’. I doubt they would have been satisfied with anything they got.

I thought about how often that happens to us as adults. We want to live, be content with what we have, enjoy our lives and be close to God. Just like those clowns going up and down the aisles at the circus, we too get distracted. We see that perfect family or the perfectly organized home or the perfect kids or the shiny car or the designer ‘whatever’ or a million other things. We lose focus and decide we need all those things. We start to feel discontent and dissatisfied with anything and everything we get because it’s never enough. When the distractions are pushed aside we are able to see the big picture, we find joy again in the reason we’re alive- to love God and others. When the actual performance started, the boys forgot about wanting everything they saw, they were focused on the actual reason they were there… to see the show. When our actual purpose starts, we too forget about wanting everything we see. Our purpose is to find our significance in who God made us to be and to share that with others. Once we let the show begin in our own lives we can get busy at loving the life we have and let the distractions dissipate into the background.  

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